Satellite images of Hurricane Ian on Wednesday morning September 28 as it approaches the Florida coast as a strong Category 4 storm. (Image: NOAA)
As Hurricane Ian nears landfall as a powerful Category 4 storm, data centers across Florida are taking steps to prepare their facilities and staff for days of disruption as the massive storm sweeps through across the state.
The storm intensified as it approached the Gulf Coast of Florida, with winds of 155 miles per hour that can cause severe flooding from storm surges and wind damage, as well as several heavy rain days that can drop over 12 inches of rain in parts of Florida.
Florida data centers have plenty of experience with hurricanes and are taking precautions to ensure their buildings are as prepared as possible, stocking up on generator fuel and positioning staff for extended shifts. in case the storm creates travel problems.
Ian comes a year after Hurricane Ida hit the New Orleans area as a Category 4 storm, causing long power outages after winds toppled major electrical transmission towers serving the city.
A key part of a data center emergency operations plan is to take care of personnel who may need to stay at the data center for an extended period, even if a major storm threatens the area where they live. . Other lessons learned from past hurricanes and regional disasters are the critical importance of diesel fuel to support emergency generators. Most data center operators have priority contracts for diesel fuel and can be replenished during long-term events that require generator support.
Here’s an overview of Ian’s potential impacts and major data center readiness.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicts “catastrophic” flooding by storm surges 12 to 18 feet above normal water levels in areas near Ian’s landfall. Many of these areas are under evacuation zones, meaning personnel cannot stay to protect facilities. This includes businesses, governments, and educational institutions with on-premises data center facilities that would normally have administrators monitoring their equipment.
The metropolitan area facing the highest projected storm surge is Fort Myers and Naples, where the NHC predicts storm surges will exceed 9 feet. Several data centers operate in the area, including facilities in Fort. Myers operated by network operator Lumen and a Skylink data center site in Naples.
Skylink describes its facility as “a bunker built on the top floor of a newly constructed freestanding office building” that sits 40 feet above sea level and “capable of withstanding anything mother nature has to throw at it.” reserved”.
In Sarasota, the Ringling College of Art and Design closed its campus, including the data center that would normally provide communication and distance learning resources. The campus is several hundred yards from Sarasota Bay, but about 75 miles north of the proposed landfall.
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“Campus technology resources will be taken offline and we will close the campus data center to protect it,” the college said Monday. “Our data center will also be completely offline during our preparations for the storm. All university technology services provided by our campus data center will be unavailable.” The college urged students to back up their network files and virtual desktops .
The Tampa Bay area faces a large impact from Ian, although the storm’s track moved just south, avoiding worst-case storm surge scenarios, a particular hazard for the region. There are approximately 25 data centers in metro Tampa, including two Flexential facilities and a Cyxtera data center in Tampa, and a Cologix data center further inland in Lakeland.
“Flexential draws on more than 20 years of experience designing, building and operating highly available, highly secure data centers,” said David Kidd, senior vice president of governance, risk and compliance at Flexential. “We have developed emergency management processes to support ongoing operations in extreme conditions. We trained experts in data center operations as part of our mobile emergency response team (aka “go-team”) who traveled to augment our on-site staff in Florida. Every member of our team is fully trained to keep our data centers operational in extreme conditions.
“Our personnel on site have also confirmed that all emergency systems are working properly and that all necessary supplies, including fuel, are ready if and when the storm arrives,” Kidd added. “Throughout any emergency, the Flexential Support Team operates the Flexential Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate communications with our customers and our response teams.”
Orlando is home to approximately 10 data centers, the largest being DataSite Orlando, which is now part of the CoreSite portfolio following recent consolidation by facility owner American Tower Corp. It’s a 130,000-square-foot data center, and outside of the 500-year-old floodplain, which may be significant for operators in the Orlando area if heavy rainfall projections come true.
“We have activated our contingency preparations for the Florida market storm and are monitoring the situation closely,” said Joseph Liccardo, vice president of data center field operations at CoreSite, which also operates a data center in Miami.
Miami is Florida’s largest data center, with more than 30 data centers, including the NAP of the America and landing stations for undersea communications cables. Although Miami is far from the expected landfall near Ft. Myers, Hurricane Ian’s vast size will bring severe weather to South Florida, including tropical storm-force winds of about 40 miles per hour. , prolonged heavy rain and the risk of tornadoes.
We’ll update this story as we hear from other operators.
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